Informing them last week of his decision, Newhall School District Superintendent Jeff Pelzel told his governing board, staff and families that this would be his final year at the helm of the district.
Pelzel told The Signal on Tuesday that his leaving would not be because of bad blood between him and the district, nor because he was retiring entirely from education, but because he felt it was time to move on.
“He’s been a transformational superintendent for the district; he’s done great work for us and we hold him in the highest regard,” said Donna Rose, the Newhall School District’s Governing Board president. “We wish he could have stayed with us, maybe retired with us, but that’s just how much we think of him.”
“But we understand that he decided it was time and that he needed to find something new,” Rose added.
A native of Selah, Washington, Pelzel started his career as a mathematics and psychology teacher in Selah. He held various posts in the Kent, Moses Lake and Selah school districts before finding his way to the Santa Clarita Valley.
Pelzel has been at the Newhall School District for the past eight years, first serving under former-Superintendent Paul Cordeiro as an assistant superintendent before he was named to the top job in 2018.
Pelzel has led the district through unprecedented challenges over the last four years, including but not limited to: the Saugus High School shooting, the COVID-19 pandemic and a ransomware attack that temporarily disabled distance learning for thousands of elementary school students.
“He’s been a tremendous leader and has brought our staff together to work out solutions and make it work for our students,” said Rose.
While he’s happy with where the district is currently, Pelzel, 50, said he made his decision to step away after having dealt with the stress of various personal and professional challenges over the last few years, and the pandemic forced him, as well as many other people, to “look at what’s really important in life.”
“I knew that it was really time for me to step away, reflect for myself on really what work I want to engage in,” said Pelzel. “Whether it’s eventually coming back to work in a school district or maybe (finding) a different way of supporting (them) … that’s what I want to be able to figure out.”
Pelzel said he made his decision last week in order to give the board ample time to find a replacement and ensure there would be a smooth transition between him and his successor.
The governing board is slated to accept Pelzel’s resignation during a special board meeting held Thursday evening at the district offices. The board will then kick off their official search for a new superintendent by discussing and creating proposals for possible search firms.
“That search firm will solicit information from the board, parents and staff about the qualities they are looking for in a superintendent, and they will be conducting a search that could be statewide, it could be nationwide,” said Rose. “We haven’t had that discussion yet.”
Pelzel’s final day with the district will be June 30.